Friday, 21 October 2016

This Little Life of Mine

A promising look at the humdrum city existence needs more focus if it is to say something to us

Written by Richard Barber

Billed as ‘a brand-new British musical’ (so hooray for that), this little life of mine is a bit of a curate’s egg of a show. There are genuinely poignant moments followed by ill-judged scenes of gross-out comedy. There are stretches of sensitive storytelling and then one-dimensional patches that are just plain dull. It is, let us say, a work in progress.

The story is straightforward enough. Upwardly mobile Izzy (Kate Batter) and her Nick Clegg-lookalike boyfriend, Jonesy (James Robinson) have moved into a pocket- handkerchief-sized flat. They try – and fail – to get pregnant. They break up. And that’s it. Richard-Barber-colour-176

Nothing wrong in a story that reflects the lives of many of the audience. But it needs to be sharper and more consistent than this if it’s to illuminate the humdrum. One of the problems, I think, is that Michael Yale who wrote the book is also the show’s director, and it’s never a good idea to be the wearer of two hats. Also, it isn’t really what it says on the tin in that it’s not so much a musical as a play with a few songs. Charlie Round-Turner is responsible for the score whose lyrics are rarely much more than predictable.

But there are enough diamonds in the rough to brighten the landscape. Chief among them is Kate Batter who can act as well as she can sing and who brings real feeling to her pivotal role. Caroline Deverill and Greg Barnett, meanwhile, are charged with playing a dizzying succession of characters, sometimes caricatures.

He’s very funny as an over- the-top barista, the title of whose first-half lament I would pass on to you had someone seen fit to list the musical numbers in the programme. And she displays her versatility via Jonesy’s foot-in-the-mouth mother and Izzy’s best friend, complete with killer Australian accent.

But then they are required to play a couple – he’s a hooray Henry hedge-fund manager, she’s his saucy wife – who try to persuade our hero and heroine to indulge in a bit of swinging and all set to music. My teeth ached, my toes curled.

A shout-out, though, for Thomas Duchan on piano and Daisy Heath on cello for their sensitive playing in the tiny Park90 studio space (that’s how many people it seats).

So – a chamber piece with modest ambitions. But there needs to be a little more rigour to if this is to have an afterlife. Back to the workshop, i’d say.

Until 29 October at the Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, London N4: 020-7870 6876, 

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